When multiple plans by the city of La Crosse to provide bridge housing for homeless last year fell through, the funding set aside for the project remained untouched.
Now, $150,000 of that money could be spent to continue outreach programming to assist unsheltered people.
On Thursday, City planner Andrea Trane told the city’s Finance and Personnel Committee that ARPA funds could be used to fund the outreach for a year.
“We thought this use of it, bc it already was designated, and vetted through Bakery Tilly, as being a good use of ARPA funds to address those most impacted by COVID,” Trane said.
The funding will go to the Independent Living Resources (ILR).
“It’s the cost of maintaining two full-time staff, which is currently what the outreach team is, and we serve over 200 people a year,” ILR’s Sara Eckland told the committee. “But without additional funding, there’s a very real chance that our outreach team will not exist after January of 2024.
Trane noted that ILR is one of the groups trying to work under the city-county umbrella to create a five-year plan to bring homelessness to functional zero.
“I do sit on the team that’s working with the county to address the five-year plan,” Trane said, “and we recognize the importance of Independent Living Resources and expect that their role and helping them get more adequate funding for this role, would be part of that long-term plan.”
The committee endorsed the spending by a 4-2 vote. Barb Janssen was one of the dissenting votes.
“I don’t think it’s just the city of La Crosse that should be responsible for this, and I think it’s time for others to step up and provide funding,” Janssen said.
Last year, the city initially had teamed up with La Crosse County to buy the old Chamber of Commerce building downtown for bridge housing. But, as the deal came close to completion, after multiple public meetings, a private buyer put down a cash offer to buy the building out from under the city and county.
After that, the city tried to buy a motel on the south side, and, though it appeared to be a done deal, an inspection of the building apparently caused the city to back out of the deal.